Government To Attack Turnbull NBN Investment As Independents Call For Business Plan

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The Gillard Government is under renewed pressure to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the $43 billion National Broadband Network as it tries to push key legislation through the Senate next week.

The Gillard Government is under renewed pressure to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the $43 billion National Broadband Network as it tries to push key legislation through the Senate next week.

Independent and Greens MPs reacted angrily last week to the Government’s refusal to release the business plan for the government-owned NBN Co.

The Government has agreed to brief independents privately on the material, but says it cannot publish the business case until next month because it is commercially sensitive, and Cabinet is yet to be briefed.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says he will use negotiations over the broadband bill to come before the Senate next week to pressure the Government into a cost-benefit analysis.

According to Fairfax Media  opposition communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, has a $10 million investment in Melbourne ITan information technology company which, its managing director says, stands to reap ”new wealth” from the Labor government’s $43 billion national broadband network.

Mr Turnbull, owns 5.4 million shares in Melbourne IT. Mr Turnbull’s wife, Lucy, is a director.

The government is likely to try and use the shareholding to embarrass Mr Turnbull in this final week of Parliament as it seeks to get through the Senate a crucial bill for the network that will allow for the structural separation of Telstra.

Mr Turnbull said that his critical approach to the network ”shows how uninfluenced I am by my personal holdings”.

Meanwhile Comms and Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy has responded by publishing a statement on the progress of the NBN. In the statement he outlines plans to settle the outstanding policy and commercial matters associated with the project, and progress with Telstra negotiations.

Conroy says he will dispel the “myths and misinformation circulating about the NBN in coming weeks, which will present the final pieces of the National Broadband Network policy to the Australian public.”

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill – which provides for the structural separation of Telstra’s retail and wholesale businesses – passed the House of Representatives last Tuesday, and is due to go before the Senate this week.

Conroy added that in the coming week he will be introducing two further NBN-related bills. These would establish the future ownership arrangements for NBN Co, its functions, the regulatory environment in which it will operate and how it will interact with its customers in providing improved services to consumers and businesses, he said.

Turning to the motion moved by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam last week demanding immediate production of the NBN business plan and the Government’s response to the implementation study, Conroy said the Government would not be able to comply with the timeframe of this motion.

He said that the business plan is “long and complex” and the Government is examining the plan and the policy and commercial issues it raises.

“In considering the business plan, we will be responding to the outstanding recommendations of the NBN implementation study which has been so important in guiding our thinking about the development of the NBN project,” Conroy said.

“We have already announced decisions on matters such as coverage and extending the fibre footprint to 93 percent of premises. The remaining issues will be settled in the coming weeks.”
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